St. Maarten twins with Newark – Minister Richardson: “This is a great opportunity”

POSTED: 12/17/13 9:52 PM

GREAT BAY – Sint Maarten is about to embark on a sister city-relationship with Newark in New Jersey, independent MP Romain Laville announced yesterday at a press conference in the parliament building with Tourism and Economic Affairs Minister Ted Richardson and his chief of cabinet Ludwig Ouenniche by his side. St. Maarten will be the fourteenth twin for Newark that already has relationships with five cities in Brazil, four in Africa, Portugal, China and Azerbeijan – plus, the only other town in the Caribbean – Freeport in the Bahamas.

Today, Minister Richardson will present a resolution that defines the twinning relationship between Newark and St. Maarten for approval to the Council of Ministers. According to Laville and Richardson, the decision does not require approval by the parliament.

Laville said that discussions with Newark started about two years ago. The objective of the relationship is to expand and extend economic, cultural and social developments, to create mutual investment opportunities and to enhance exposure for St. Maarten in its core marketing region, New Jersey. Tourism, education, trade, health, environment and media are the fields in which the new twins will seek to cooperate and to support each other. Laville spoke yesterday of student exchange programs, hooking up with Rutgers University and the Essex Community College, twinning programs for schools, business to business links and joint ventures.

On another level there will be opportunities for community groups to work together. One of the prime issues right now is to increase flights from Newark to St. Maarten and to bring more visitors to the island. Under the agreement, St. Maarten will seek favorable rates from United Airlines and American airlines for flights to the island.

The contacts with St. Maarten were initiated by Newark council member Darrin Sharif, who invited Minister Richardson, Laville and Ouenniche to discuss the twinning agreement. The city council of Newark has in the meantime approved the agreement, Laville said.

The twinning program would also offer opportunities for police officers and fire fighters to take part in training programs in Newark and thus to benefit from American experiences in these fields.

“We had a tourist office in New York City that has been closed down,” Laville added. “Now we are looking to open an office in Newark, not just for tourism, but as some kind of liaison office that will offer support to students and entrepreneurs as well.”

“This is a great opportunity for all St. Maarteners to develop themselves in different fields,” Minister Richardson said. “This is also a great opportunity for the development of tourism and for our economy. This will have a great impact on our island.”

Richardson said that St. Maarten has a natural attraction abroad. “I have traveled the world and wondered who would want to work together with St. Maarten. I discovered that what impresses people the most is the number of tourists such a small country as ours is able to handle. On Wednesday we will have eight cruise ships in town – they will bring 30,000 visitors. We are very unique and the people in Newark feel that they will be able to learn something from this ability we have.”

Furthermore, Richardson said, St. Maarten is a natural hub, a gateway to the Caribbean. Another thing that binds Newark to St. Maarten is the high Caribbean heritage among its population.


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